How to Defend Yourself from Verbal Abuse

August 12, 2021 Cheryl Wozny

If you or someone you know has been the victim of verbal abuse, it can be hard to determine how to handle the situation. Verbal abuse can show up in the home, at work, or even in public situations. Each circumstance is unique, and knowing how to defend yourself against verbal abuse can be complex. In some cases, verbal abuse can lead to physical violence, so effectively handling it can keep you safe from harm. 

How to Defend Yourself When Confronted with Verbal Abuse

Examine the Real Reason for the Verbal Abuse

There could be an underlying issue why your abuser is lashing out at you during this moment. Although this is not an excuse to condone verbal abuse in any way, it could help you understand why they are acting abusively towards you. Sometimes if you can pinpoint the source of the anger, you can help diffuse the situation. Did you make a comment or do something that they misinterpreted? Is the abuser angry at someone else, but you are the person in front of them right now taking the negative energy? Do they feel threatened by you in some way? 

Avoid Defensive Mode Even Though You Are Defending Yourself from Verbal Abuse

Automatically, when we are feeling attacked or abused, we will go to our defensive mode. It is an instinct to protect ourselves and fight back, but this can escalate the situation higher when facing verbal abuse. Some of these tips can help minimize the severity of the problem. 

  • Keep your voice calm, almost monotone, without yelling or showing extreme emotion.
  • Relax your body, do not appear tense, frightened, scared, or angry.
  • Do not provide extensive explanations to the abuser; they will not listen anyway.
  • Do not use vague or hypothetical situations in your comments to an abuser.
  • Do not offer answers for the abuser to continue their verbal assault.
  • Use clear, concise, and straightforward language and do not stray off-topic.
  • If you can physically remove yourself from the situation, it may be best, depending on whether you have any witnesses.

Know Some Effective Responses 

You will not always be able to diffuse a situation immediately or as ideally as you would like. Knowing some alternative ways to have the abuser stop attacking you can provide relief in many cases. If they are a regular acquaintance in your life, you can respond accordingly once you know their intent. Try responses like these:

  • "I'm sorry, I will not sit here and listen to you talk to me like this."
  • "It's funny that you mentioned that I eat too much junk food since I was just thinking about a story I read in the newspaper about a convenience store that had a problem with their supplier . . ." and then go on and on until the abuser gets fed up and leaves. (This is the "boring baroque response.")
  • "It can be frustrating when you don't know where other coworkers are in their projects and are coming close to the deadline."

Each circumstance will be different, and it is crucial that you stay calm, remember to breathe, and not retaliate if someone is verbally abusing you. If you cannot handle the situation yourself, you must seek some help from others before your circumstances become worse. 

APA Reference
Wozny, C. (2021, August 12). How to Defend Yourself from Verbal Abuse , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, December 4 from

Author: Cheryl Wozny

Cheryl Wozny is a freelance writer and published author of several books, including a mental health resource for children, titled Why Is My Mommy So Sad? Writing has become her way of healing and helping others. Find Cheryl on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and on her blog

August, 15 2021 at 4:51 am

Wonderful tips, especially remembering to breathe and leave the situation! However, sharing a long story to annoy the abuser can sometimes escalate the situation. I know this from personal experience with a verbal abuser.

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